Southeastern Section–56th Annual Meeting (29–30 March 2007)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:20 PM


WAGNER, John R., Geological Sciences, Clemson University, 340 Brackett Hall, Clemson, SC 29634-0919,

The Battle of Kings Mountain was one of the turning points in the American Revolution. It was a battle fought between American patriots and American loyalists (the only non-American present was British Major Patrick Ferguson). Ferguson was on his way to Charlotte NC, to join forces with Cornwallis, when he received word of an approaching patriot army, known as the "over-mountain men" because they had to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains from Tennessee in order to reach South Carolina. On the afternoon of October 6, 1780, Ferguson's forces arrived at Kings Mountain where he elected to wait for reinforcements. Confident in his ability to defend his position, he bragged that even "God Almighty can't get me off this mountain." The patriot forces at Cowpens traveled through the night in a pouring rain and encircled the mountain around noon the next day. The battle started around 4:00 PM and was over in about one hour with the patriots claiming an overwhelming victory. The conflict at Kings Mountain was essentially a battle between the British bayonet and the rifles of the over-mountain men. The topography at King's Mountain favored the riflemen who used the terrain to their advantage. The mountain, a classic monadnock, rises some sixty feet above the surrounding landscape, was covered in large pines, and is toppped by a ridge that runs from sixty to one hundred feet in width. While Ferguson ordered bayonet charges, the over-mountain men simply fell back seeking cover behind trees and rocks where they then fired into the lines of the loyalists with well-aimed rifle fire. The Battle of Kings Mountain provides an excellent example of how familiarity with terrain can confer a decisive advantage in a military campaign. The circuitous route of the over-mountain men likewise illustrates the influence of topography on transporting troops and supplies. The interdisciplinary connections between science and history make this topic a perfect study site for middle school students and for that reason it has been incorporated into the SE MAPS curriculum project.